MARKEY, Chief Judge.
Dan Robbins & Associates, Inc. (Robbins) appeals from the decision of the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (board), Questor Corp. v. Dan Robbins & Associates, Inc., 199 USPQ 358 (TTAB 1978), sustaining opposition No. 55,579 by Questor Corporation (Questor) against Robbins' application to register LI'L TINKER and design for children's books, and dismissing Robbins' counterclaim for cancellation of Questor's registration No. 96,175 of TINKERTOY used on games, toys and children's building blocks. We affirm.
Questor and its predecessors have for many years extensively used and advertised TINKERTOY as a trademark for toy construction sets.
Robbins approached Questor in 1972, seeking a right to solicit licensees outside the toy field. A resulting agreement acknowledged Questor's rights in the mark. To aid a licensing program for children's books, Robbins developed this mark:
Though Robbins' promotional material claimed that children's stories about the animated "Li'l Tinker" character would "further strengthen the Tinkertoy image" and "open up a whole new dimension in our Tinkertoy licensing program," he was unable to secure Questor's permission to use the mark in areas noncompetitive to Questor.
Questor opposed Robbins' application for federal registration, relying on uncontested prior use of its federally-registered mark TINKERTOY for games, toys and children's building blocks.
On January 6, 1976, Questor deposed Mr. Robbins, president of Robbins, with his attorney present. The reporter did not ask Mr. Robbins to sign the transcript until February 26. On May 28, Questor asked Robbins' counsel about Mr. Robbins' availability for signing. The transcript was not filed in the PTO until July 28, when Robbins had not yet received a copy.
Noting that toys and children's books are sold in the same channels of commerce to the same purchasers, the board sustained the opposition, finding the similarities between the marks and the numerous uses of the word "tinkertoy" and illustrations of interconnected dowels and spools in Robbins' book "sufficient to lead purchasers and prospective purchasers to mistakenly assume that the book emanates from or is in some way associated with the producer of `TINKERTOY' toys." (199 USPQ at 366-67). The board dismissed Robbins' counterclaim, finding it unsupported by evidence and inconsistent with Robbins' licensing program position. (199 USPQ at 364-66).
The issues presented are whether the board erred in (1) denying the motion to strike, (2) sustaining the opposition, or (3) dismissing the counterclaim.
(1) Motion to Strike
Jurisdiction over appeals from the board is governed by Section 21(a)(1) of the Lanham Act (Act), 15 U.S.C. § 1071(a)(1):
Interlocutory decisions are reviewable on appeal of the final judgment only if "logically related" to the basic substantive issues in the case. Palisades Pageants, Inc. v. Miss America Pageant, 442 F.2d 1385, 1388, 58 CCPA 1225, 1228, 169 USPQ 790, 792, cert. denied, 404 U.S. 938, 92 S.Ct. 269, 30 L.Ed.2d 251, 171 USPQ 641 (1971); Hercules Inc. v. National Patent Development Corp., 524 F.2d 1227, 1228, 187 USPQ 668, 669 (Cust. & Pat.App.1975). A purely procedural issue, like that raised by Robbins' motion to strike for untimeliness, is not sufficiently related to be reviewable here.
The basic appealable issues here are likelihood of confusion and descriptiveness of Questor's mark. Whether the board granted or denied the motion to strike would not determine the outcome or preclude a determination of either issue. The board's denial of Robbins' motion to strike was neither a dispositive decision adjudicating a right nor a decision sufficiently related to the merits of the appealable issues to warrant appellate review. Hence Robbins' appeal, insofar as it relates to the motion to strike, is dismissed.
In determining likelihood of confusion, consideration is given to the marks, the goods described in the application and registration, and all the circumstances bearing on the marketing environment. Industrial Nucleonics Corp. v. Hinde, 475 F.2d 1197, 1199, 177 USPQ 386, 387 (Cust. & Pat.App.1973); In re E.I. duPont de Nemours & Co., 476 F.2d 1357, 1361, 177 USPQ 563, 567 (Cust & Pat.App.1973). The overall
Questor and its predecessors engaged in substantial advertising and sales of TINKERTOY construction sets. Individuals within the toy industry testified that TINKERTOY is one of the better known trademarks.
Robbins' and Questor's marks are not without similarity, "tinker" being a common element.
Questor's games, toys, and children's building blocks, and Robbins' children's books, all have a common marketing environment, being sold generally in toy stores and toy departments of retail stores to the same purchasers.
Robbins was well aware of Questor's TINKERTOY mark when it adopted its own mark. Like the promotional material Robbins used in the licensing program, Robbins' mark was created specifically to produce and highlight an association between Robbins' mark and the TINKERTOY mark. A mark designed to maximize association between entities, as here, is likely to lead to confusion in the absence of a proper license relationship between those entities.
We sustain the finding of likelihood of confusion.
Under Section 7(b) of the Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1057(b),
Under Section 14(c) of the Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1064(c),
Whether the relevant purchasing public regards a term as a common descriptive name is a question of fact to be resolved on the evidence. Bayer Co. v. United Drug Co., 272 F. 505, 509 (S.D.N.Y.1921) (L. Hand, J.). Purchaser testimony, consumer surveys, and listings in dictionaries, trade journals, newspapers and other publications, are useful evidence.
We agree with the board's careful analysis of Robbins' documentary exhibits (199 USPQ at 365-66) and see no value in reiterating it here. We conclude, as did the board, that "this material falls ruefully short of establishing that `TINKERTOY' is devoid of trademark significance." Questor Corp. v. Dan Robbins & Associates, Inc., supra at 365.
Robbins' attempt to analogize the TINKERTOY mark to the CELLOPHANE mark, declared generic in Du Pont Cellophane Co., Inc. v. Waxed Products Co., Inc., 85 F.2d 75, 30 USPQ 332 (CA2), cert. denied, 299 U.S. 601, 57 S.Ct. 194, 81 L.Ed. 443 (1936), is not supported by adequate proof. The attack made here on the board for an alleged failure to "even consider the possibility that the fame of TINKERTOY might be as the generic name of the product, not otherwise" borders the irresponsible, the board having expressly determined that:
(199 USPQ at 366).
Relying primarily on argument, Robbins says Questor, as pioneer of a new product, was not concerned with legal "niceties" associated with preserving its trademark. That unsupported statement is completely at odds with the presumption of validity set forth above, as is this attempt by Robbins to improperly shift the burden of proof to Questor:
Similarly, the contention that the board required of Robbins too high a burden of proof must fall. The board's opinion, read as a whole, demonstrates that it simply found Robbins' evidence so weak as to be inadequate under any reasonable standard.
Robbins say the board erred in finding that Questor asserted no exclusive rights in the construction toys sold under its mark, and accuses Questor of using the mark to achieve an "unlimited monopoly" in contravention of the "public policy against impeding competition." The argument begs the question, Robbins having failed to prove that TINKERTOY is the common descriptive name of Questor's toys.
We sustain the dismissal of the counterclaim.
Robbins' appeal, insofar as it relates to the motion to strike, is dismissed. The decisions of the board sustaining Questor's opposition and dismissing Robbins' counterclaim for cancellation are affirmed.
We express no view on the board's implied alternate holding that Robbins' activities in the licensing program estop him from denying validity of the mark TINKERTOY.